AFC North Notes: Steelers, Taylor, McCown

The Steelers, much like the division-rival Ravens, rarely make a big splash in free agency, choosing instead to build through the draft and locking up their own premier players before they become free agents. But Pittsburgh has glaring needs in the secondary and at outside linebacker, and as Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes, “the Steelers will have more disposable money to use in free agency than any time in recent memory.”

The team recently bought a little breathing room by restructuring the contracts of Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey, and Mike Mitchell, and it could create even more cap space by releasing players like Troy Polamalu and Brett Keisel. As such, the Steelers could address their most significant holes in the first wave of free agency next week. Kaboly’s colleague at the Tribune-Review, Chris Adamski, takes a look at some of the most notable names that Pittsburgh could target, and while the team will likely not go all-in for the big-ticket items, the second tier of free agents at cornerback and outside linebacker includes intriguing players that would look good in black-and-gold.

Now for a few more notes from the AFC North:

  • In his second mailbag of the weekend, Jamison Hensley of looks at a few Ravens-related topics, including how the team will address the cornerback position. Although the secondary was the team’s biggest weakness in 2014, Hensley does not foresee a major overhaul. Instead, the team will rely on the healthy returns of players like Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson. Although the Ravens could target an under-the-radar free agent, they will not be major players for the big names that will sign new deals next week, and unless Marcus Peters falls in their lap, there will likely not be an opportunity to make an im,mediate upgrade in the draft.
  • Hensley also believes the Ravens will part ways with backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and will sign a free agent to compete with last year’s sixth-round choice, Keith Wenning.
  • Tony Grossi of attempts to explain why the Browns signed Josh McCown instead of making an effort to retain Brian Hoyer. Grossi writes, “It’s obvious to me that the Browns considered McCown the better fit in the role they envisioned – a potential short-term starter and real long-term mentor who will create no waves and do whatever is asked of him.” However, Grossi also feels that Cleveland may have felt threatened by Hoyer’s “smartness and his forthrightness” and did not believe his play outweighed the potential internal strife that he could create by his willingness to question the way things were being done.
  • For his part, McCown says he will do whatever he can to help embattled Browns second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel, writes Marc Sessler of
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